Murray the bet at the price
Andy Murray looks the best value in the Australian Open men's singles market, according to our Andy Schooler.
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Andy Murray, US Open champion.
After years of wondering, those words have a nice ring to them - especially if you are Mr Murray.
The key to Australian Open punting profit could well be establishing how much of an effect winning at Flushing Meadows last year has had on the Scot.
History is against Murray for, remarkably, a first-time Grand Slam winner has yet to follow up in the very next event in the entire Open era.
However, current circumstances have to be taken into account. Having had to wait so long for his first title, Murray is a mature player, one at the peak of his career. No matter how well he played, the same could not be said of Novak Djokovic when he claimed his first Slam here in 2008.
The fact is that Murray, whose serve is just one stroke which improved considerably in 2012, has few equals right now.
Off the clay, his Grand Slam results over the last two years have been W-RU-SF-SF-SF-RU. That was with the pressure on.
From listening to the world number three, you can only feel enthused about his chances of adding further Grand Slams to the CV.
Quotes such as these - "In the last three, four or five years there has been significant pressure in my mind, and now I feel more relaxed" - have been commonplace in recent weeks.
Unlike many other comments made by sportsmen, there would appear to be no kidology going on here.
The enormous pressure Murray has been under from a sports-mad nation has lifted in a big way and he seems well placed to capitalise.
The only men to beat Murray here in the past three years have been his two main title rivals this season - Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Last year's semi-final, which Murray lost deep in a fifth set, proved there was little between him and Djokovic and that theme continued throughout the season.
Their US Open final also went to a fifth, while just a handful of points separated the pair when they met in Shanghai and London (Djokovic winning both) in the latter part of the 2012 campaign.
If the layers are to be believed, the pair will meet in the final in a fortnight's time yet there is a significant difference in their price.
While Djokovic is a shade of odds-against, Murray is out at 7/2. That doesn't seem right.
OK, the Serb, beaten by Bernard Tomic in the recent Hopman Cup, is the two-time defending champion but he'll only be a slight favourite if the duo meet on January 27. For now, the value is with Murray.
The British star's price can be partially explained by the fact he has Federer in his half of the draw - Djokovic is seeded to meet David Ferrer in the last four - but the Swiss has a tough path ahead of such a clash and has taken the risk of not playing any warm-up events.
At 6/1, a player of Federer's ability is always tempting. Remember, he beat Murray at the World Tour Finals in London and pushed Djokovic close in the final only two months ago. However, my view here is that he's not really an each-way bet at 6s and it's hard to see him beating Murray and Djokovic back-to-back on this surface, as he may well have to do.
A Djokovic-Murray final can be backed at 15/8 (BetVictor) which isn't the worst bet around but Murray at 17/5 is the main recommendation from an ante-post point of view.
Looking at other markets, value seems thin on the ground.
The second quarter is the obvious place to turn but, after a shaky start to the season in Doha, Ferrer's impressive defence of the Auckland title has put him back in the picture here and he looks hard to oppose. The top four seeds reaching the semis can be backed at 9/2. Again, not the worst bet.
However, instead I'll take punt in sportingbet's 'to reach the last 16' market.
Andreas Seppi flew up the rankings last season as he began to notch up wins on surfaces other than clay. Certainly his indoor form was highly impressive at the end of 2012 and his run to the semis in Sydney this past week suggests he's also now at home on outdoor hard.
The Italian is 9/2 to win his first three matches in Melbourne, a price which looks too big given what he's achieved in recent months.
Marin Cilic is the main danger - the Croat being the player seeded to eliminate Seppi in round three.
Yet Cilic has a tricky opener against Marinko Matosevic to negotiate and has been the most reliable player in the past.
Given the price, Seppi just seems worth taking a chance on.
Little else floats the boat - sadly it rarely does these days when the big guns are in the field - so I'll instead keep the rest of the bank aside for some match bets during the tournament.
Every day I'll be publishing a bet of the day on sportinglife.com and my Twitter feed - @NetTalkTennis.
Finally, it's worth noting some offers that are knocking around on the outright betting.
For those backing Murray, Coral and Stan James are both offering refunds if Federer wins the tournament. For those opposing the Briton, BetVictor will refund if Murray wins the title.